TOM BEDFORD has followed in the footsteps of fellow experienced centres Marc Koteczky and Jake Murphy in leaving Plymouth Albion.
The 27-year-old former Exeter, Newcastle, Cornish Pirates and Bedford player featured in every single match for Albion last season, starting 28 of their 30 National One games and coming on as a replacement in the other two.
Bedford, who combines his rugby with working as an estate agent in Exeter, would have liked to have stayed at Plymouth, but, like with Koteczky and Murphy, he said he was unhappy with the way things were handled and what the club were offering.
“I definitely won’t be at Albion next year,” revealed Bedford, who became a father last September.
The centre, who was Plymouth’s most experienced player last term, was considering retiring and just concentrating on his day-time job, but he admits he is now talking to another club.
“I have got another option rugby-wise which I’m exploring at the moment and obviously I am working as well in Exeter,” he said.
“I would have stayed at Plymouth this year if things had gone smoothly and they had treated me right.”
Bedford added: “The last month of the season everything was up in the air, but we got told we would be kept in the loop, that they would be honest with us and tell us everything.
“They said they wanted to speak to all the players before the end of the season, but I don’t think one player was spoken to.
“It dragged on to a week after the season and then they said they wanted to get to know us first. If you are buying a business you would expect to know the staff before.
“I eventually spoke to Nigel (Sparrow) after a couple of weeks of hearing nothing and they offered me very similar to what Marc Koteczky got offered.
“I just said to Nigel ‘out of interest if you got offered the pay cut you have offered me would you stay at your job?’ and his reply was ‘no’.
“I think the way the players have been treated is not fair – not getting in contact and then when they do what they are saying and how it is coming across.
“Players have got mortgages or rent to pay and bills to pay.
“Luckily, I have another job, but some players are really struggling.”
He added: “I respect that there are issues at Plymouth Albion in terms of money but there are other ways of going about things.
“I just don’t think they have treated the players right, especially considering how much effort the players put in last year.
“We had some tough times but I think we exceeded everyone’s expectations and all the players really enjoyed themselves.
“I think if at the end of the season they had treated us correctly and spoke to us right, then I think a lot more people would have stayed and enjoyed the season coming up.”
Former Ivybridge Community College pupil Bedford loved his season with Albion and said it was one of the ‘tightest’ squads he had ever been involved with.
“I have played rugby professionally for 10 years and I can say there is not many squads tighter than that one was and have as much fun as that one last year,” he said.
“It is probably the tightest squad I’ve been at yet the youngest as well. There was a lot more to come from that squad.
“Last year the crowds were building and we had some cracking atmospheres and some great games and wins. You could feel that bit of a buzz around the club.”
Bedford’s departure means Albion have now lost all last season’s centres and fly-halves.
Plymouth appear to be putting most of their resources into their pack.
Forwards Nile Dacres, Herbie Stupple, Dan Pullinger, Cameron Thompson, Dave Fisher and Todd Prisk have already signed for next season.
It also appears that Somerset-based London Scottish academy prop Sam Nixon is also on his way to Brickfields.
The loose-head, who is a former Millfield School pupil, has recently started calling himself a Plymouth Albion player on social media.
Albion need to strength their front-row options having lost Ollie Dawe, James Penman and Christian Judge.
England Under-20 prop Billy Keast is rumoured to be one of the Exeter Chiefs players that could be dual-registered with Albion, having been at Redruth last season.
Exeter backs Harrison Cully and Jack Maunder could also possibly return to Brickfields on a similar deal and fly-half Joe Simmonds, who was loaned to Taunton last term.
Meanwhile, Cornwall’s James Earp is set to become Albion’s new conditioning coach.
Earp has worked with Albion back Matt Shepherd for a while now and other Cornwall players.